Yesterday, Trinidad and Tobago citizens received the news that fisherman Andrew Volman had died at the hands of pirates operating in the waters off our south-western peninsula. Volman’s body washed ashore yesterday, two days after he and a colleague were thrown overboard by pirates who stole their vessel in the Gulf of Paria, off La Brea. It was the third time in a week fishermen had been attacked, and just shy of three years since seven Orange Valley fishermen were killed by pirates. Each incident leads to renewed calls for better protection of our coastal waters by the T&T Coast Guard. It has been a repeated cry given that Venezuelan pirates seem to be routinely operating in our waters with impunity.
The recent discovery by Tobago fishermen of 15 bodies on a boat — which in all likelihood had been floating for days at sea — also suggests there is a huge gap in this country’s coastal patrols being exploited by the criminal element.
Citizens have every right to wonder why Volman had to become a statistic, given the promise made by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds shortly after his appointment that there would be better protection of our borders. This was indeed welcome news given fears at the national level that the steady influx of Venezuelan migrants may have contributed to the arrival of the deadlier Brazilian COVID-19 strain to Trinidad and Tobago.
Almost simultaneously the country was told that two new Cape-class patrol vessels were heading to T&T, Hinds said the Regiment’s Second Infantry Battalion was to be reassigned from Chaguaramas to Camp La Romaine by May 31, to help secure the southern peninsula. Citizens now need to know what is happening with these plans.
Clearly, an increased focus by the T&T Defence Force on the southwestern peninsula will not only make the illegal elements think twice about attacks against our fisherfolk but increase the opportunity of catching the perpetrators.
Minister Hinds also acknowledged there were kinks in the national security armour in relation to the influx of illegal migrants, guns and drugs. During a media conference at which both Chief of Defence Staff, Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith were present, Minister Hinds urged both men to step up their game as leaders of their respective areas. It was Hinds’ view then that some in various units were not “operating at full throttle” and there was “more capacity inside of us.”
Hinds, after all, is responsible for implementing the government policies and giving law enforcement the tools they need to function, while the heads implement the actual ground measures to detect and prevent the actual nefarious acts. But Hinds’ responsibility is also to call these heads to account for continued failure and to make the adjustments where necessary, especially since national security continues to benefit from the largest allocations of the national budget annually.
It was indeed heartening to hear national security officials met with the fishermen yesterday to discuss a plan of action. We hope, as do the fishermen, that there will be immediate action on their now life and death concerns. The lives of all fishermen lost at the hands of pirates must not be in vain.